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Reviews > Review: SRAM X9 10-Speed and Matchmakers

Review: SRAM X9 10-Speed and Matchmakers

How my problems with SRAM X9 10 Speed Shifters, Matchmakers and Deraileurs lead to a big crash and the purchase of some nice Shimano XT Dyna-Sys gearing!
The broken derailersThe injury I sustained!
SUMMARY (For SRAM X9 10-Speed and Matchmakers):SRAM is dead, long live Shimano! + Smooth shifting (when new). + Easy to set up and adjust. – Big reliability issues with SRAM X9 10-Speed derailleurs, something I never had with 9-Speed. – SRAM Matchmakers are weak and awkward to set up. I recommend avoiding! – I have found Shimano XT (Dyna-sys) to be far nicer. (Only used short term). When I bought my new Cove GSpot I rushed to put the new SRAM X9 10-speed shifters and derailleurs onto the bike. Last week, 6 months later, and after only 3 months of mountain bike guiding, I stripped all the SRAM stuff off my bike and replaced it with the Shimano XT 10-Speed shifters and derailleurs. If you are interested to know why then just read on… Conclusion (To save you reading it all!) Shimano have really moved the game on with their newest generation of XT shifters and mechs; if, like me, you haven’t tried them in a few years I really recommend you do. In my experience SRAM’s newest X9 10-Speed derailleur has serious reliability issues and I don’t want to invest in another one to see if I have just been unlucky (twice). The SRAM Matchmaker is a flexy, brittle piece of crap, don’t buy this under any circumstances… there I can’t say it any clearer than that.
9 Speed Good10 Speed Bad
History – SRAM X9, X7 and X5, 9-Speed. Previously I have used the 9 speed SRAM shifters and mechs, generally opting for X9 when I can although having tried X5 and X7 on occasion. Shifting is easy to set up and, as the cables stretch, adjustment is easy, no doubt due to the much marketed 1:1 actuation ratio. It can be hard to find a comfortable position for the shifters, partly due to the long upshift lever, and this is worse if you like one fingered braking. Reliability has been good for me, the rear derailleur is quite soft so bends occasionally but this also means it can be bent back into shape. The shifters last well, although they do occasionally get dirt inside and need to be opened for cleaning; an easy job with the old style shifters, however it is worth stressing that the newer ones are very awkward to reassemble. You have been warned! Typically I have got around a year from a X9 9-speed rear derailleur, with a jockey wheel change at 6 months, and around 2 years from a set of shifters. Not bad.
Recent History – SRAM X9, 10-Speed and Matchmakers. Fitting and setting up the gears was easy however the first problem came with the Matchmakers; these felt very plasticy (they are made of metal) and not overly robust. The adjustment on the Matchmakers is very poor; I couldn’t rotate the shifters where I wanted because the head of the bolt securing them was obscured by the clamp. In use I found this bolt would frequently come loose and the shifters would slide round until they hit the brake lever. This continued until last week when I noticed a crack in the Matchmaker which held the rear shifter, this quickly worsened until the clamp snapped, leaving my brake secured only by one bolt and the shifter hanging loose. This could obviously have been very nasty if the brake had come loose too! When I checked the clamp for the front derailleur I found it was also badly cracked too. The SRAM X9 10-speed rear derailleur has given me nothing but problems. The first problem came about 5 rides after fitting it when the spring that tensions the lower cage failed, meaning there was no tension in the chain. I put it down to bad luck and bought another 10-speed X9 derailleur. That lasted better but seemed to keep being knocked out of true, even when I hadn’t felt any collision. The final catastrophe came when I was railing a very fast open trail which I know very well, in a sharp right hand corner. I always jump a series of rocks on the entry, turn the bike in the air and land it in the berm;  this time, on landing, the bike just stopped and I was thrown forwards, resulting in a pretty nasty injury! It turns out the mech had moved, presumably from the force on landing, and got into the spokes, totally destroying itself and mangling my wheel. It was a painful limp to the road to get my spare bike and that evening I went to the bike shop and bought Shimano XT 10-Speed (Dyna-sys) shifters and derailleurs. The most painful thing though was that SRAM broke my beloved Charge Spoon saddle which had its rails bent in the crash. The Future: Shimano XT, 10-Speed Dyna-Sys For the last week I have been riding the new Shimano XT 10-Speed shifters and rear derailleur. I am still using the SRAM front mech (what could go wrong?) and it works perfectly with the Shimano shifters. Setting up of both derailleurs was really easy, so much for the 1:1 ratio’s advantage! The indicator window on the XT shifters is easily to remove, making it very easy to set up the shifter position. In fact, because the thumb lever is shorter than the SRAM X9, it was much, much easier to find a comfortable position for 1-finger braking. I haven’t found myself using the 2 way release on the levers, however it should mean that it suits more people’s shifting styles. In use the Shimano stuff is very ‘clunky’ compared to the SRAM shifting, however clunky soon begins to feel positive and this became a plus point for me. The levers are much more ergonomic I think and seem to require less force than the SRAM stuff. The XT Shadow rear derailleur is far more tucked away than the SRAM X9 one and so, I hope, is going to be less susceptible to impacts. Look out for a review on the Shimano kit later in the year.

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